Sunday, September 11, 2011

September 11

The 9/11 Memorial opens today to families and friends of those lost on 9/11, 2001:

Prominent in many pictures in the aftermath and cleanup after World Trade towers fell, was this Globe of the world (pictured above), damaged, yet in tact... It now sits in Battery Park as a memorial of 9/11. The Globe was left, as it survived, a symbol of the will of the American Spirit... I'm watching 9/11 10 year Anniversary and opening of the memorial in NYC... Memories of that somber morning flooding back as I pay tribute to our beloved Americans whose lives were severed with no warning or choice... Your memories continue to burn bright in loved one's hearts.

I personally did not lose a family member or friend. I am, as well as three-hundred-plus million Americans mourn the loss of or fellow brethren. The world as we knew it, changed. The one person I did worry about was my brother. In 2001, he was recently hired by United Airlines. He recently finished his training on the 777.  That was one of my first thoughts that raced through my mind, as I was standing in pajamas in front of the TV at 6:15 am “Oh my gosh… my brother  flies trans-continental… is he flying right now?”.  Irony upon ironies, shortly after 9/11, he was furloughed by United Airlines and now flies for Etihad (meaning, “united” in Arabic), an airline of the United Arab Emirates, and lives in Dhubai.

Tuesday morning, September 11, 2001, my alarm goes off at 6am… The Sacramento sports radio station blares from the minute muffled speakers of my clock radio the news at the top of the morning; I faintly hear as I reach for the snooze bar that there were reports that a plane has hit one of the world trade center towers… I thought some beginner pilot in a Cessna got lost over the Hudson and ran in to the behemoth skyscraper. 10 minutes later, the alarm goes off again, and the next statement that came out of the radio was not muffled and jolted me from the comfy covers of my bed to run to the living room and turn the TV on. The words were, “ I think we need to find a TV, a second plane has hit the second tower in New York… there is no word if this is an attack or tragic accident, but ladies and gentlemen, in the last 15 minutes, two planes have crashed in to the World Trade Center buildings”. As the television picture appeared of the billowing black smoke from two of the most famous buildings in the Word, I was stunned… shocked… I felt so helpless and asked internally, “Oh my God… Oh my God… What is happening? We are being attacked!”. I went over to my roommate’s door and knocked loudly.  She was in school full time as well as working at the same place as I after school. I told her through the door, “Momo… I don’t think you’re going to have school today. I think we are being attacked”… A usual quiet and peaceful person who enjoys her beauty sleep was quickly up standing beside me in our Lodi apartment living room staring as well in disbelief of what she was witnessing.  That was the longest day… quietest day I’d experienced in my life. I was a person 3000 miles away in the Central Valley of California overwhelmed with sadness and grief. Imagine… I was one person, an American, walking around shocked, no way directly linked to any of the victims in NYC, Washington DC, or on Flight 93, I can’t come close to grasping or ever truly relate to the shock and despair being experienced by those living and surviving surrounding the sites of destruction.

Yet… In essence, I too mourn the loss of my fellow Americans. We all carry an unwavering outlook and perseverance.  We became US citizens because our ancestors immigrated to the land of opportunity, a country built upon the principles of building upon a legacy of giving the future a better life.  Even with our flaws, our growing pains (we aren’t even 300 years old, as a country), there is no place on earth like United States of America.  Not to be cliché, it’s just a matter of fact, no act or person will snuff our human spirit, or destroy our democracy.  You can destroy our buidings, you can burn our symbols of freedom, you can try and sabotage us with suicide and cowardly roadside bombs. We will get up; we will dust the debris off, clean up the mess, and go forward.  Although we debate or may have different avenues of reaching the same result, our core remains in tact and we share the same pursuits- protect and provide for our loved ones… help those less fortunate… strive for happiness… live in peace…

As our nation mourned in the days ensuing September 11, there was a question raised amongst the rescue workers, the NYPD and the FDNY among others on what would make them feel better, and the one reply echoed thousands of times over, “I can’t wait for Sunday, so I can just watch a football game”, “I look forward to watching some baseball, to help get my mind off the grief I see everyday”… Sports. Seeing athletes perform feats and play a game we all dreamed about playing ourselves was an escape and visual treat lifting our spirits when needed most.  It was truly fitting that New York Yankees made it to the World Series. I’ve heard my share about the frivolity of sports; with that, like our American spirit, I smile, shrug off the crass comments, and reply, “Well, if you understood what it means to be a professional athlete, you too would marvel”…

With that said, I bring a few of the touching stories of those lost on 9/11… many of them, were athletes or linked to sports in some way (You may want to grab some kleenex):

MLB’s tribute:

Len Berman “Mr. New York” on Sports- His memory:

Rick Reilly and tribute remembering Flight 93:

A young avid cyclist honoring her dad whom died on 9/11:

The man with the Red Bandana:

Finally, a Christina Taylor Green, born on 9/11/2001 who died last year during an attack of her Congresswoman, whom she went to meet and speak with in Arizona:

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Fantasy Dreams

Back in 1984, two men decided to publish rules, scoring, and drafting information regarding an up and coming sports fan hobby.  Tom Kane Jr. and Cliff Charpentier produced “1984 Fantasy Football Digest”.  They may not have been the original creators of fantasy football, yet they capitalized on what is now an annual Fall ritual taking place across millions of pubs, family rooms, and cubicles in the USA.  The average fantasy player spends $150 annually. A whole new journalism category was hatched at the beginning of the millennium to report on an industry literally exploding out of its tights in popularity. Sporting networks now provide code writers, websites, and expert analysts dedicated to assisting fantasy leagues across the nation in drafts, player moves, and statistics. Serious players exchange serious money, bragging rights, as well as trophies displaying supremacy of football knowledge.  

The greatness of fantasy sports is that anyone can play.  From Jennifer Garner edging out other stars etched along Hollywood Boulevard, to that sweet unsuspecting grandmother next door growing the best hot house tomatoes and zucchini that have ever landed at the dinner table, any given Joe Schmoe you see walking down the street may be that unassuming fantasy game whisperer.  No one needs to spend hours on end in the gym or field building the body of Patrick Willis (although I pass a fair warning you might lose countless hours reading reports, and listening to experts assisting in creating the “Trophy” draft list); you’re allowed at least 120 seconds to sprint to the bathroom or run for another Heini Light in between picks; and there are no risks of concussions or dislocated joints scrolling over the “Select Player” key  when that Sleeper RB (that’s for running back) you’ve been pining, is up for grabs.  

Through practically 30 years, fantasy games have evolved to give players choices of scoring opportunities and league match up choices. It’s a game that has tantalized the fairest weather fan in to paying attention to even a 1-15 team. The beauty of performance amongst fantasy athletes is the team doesn’t necessarily have to win for a picked player to create points towards any gamer’s win.  For example, Eli Manning. The NY Giants missed making the playoffs last year. For any NY Giants fan, that sucks. But, Eli passed for over 4000 yards and 31 touchdowns, second only to Tom Brady. When one participates in a league where there are bonus points up for 300+ yd passing games, receptions made, and touchdowns, you are looking at a lot of points produced by just one player.  The advancement of online technology has made player tracking and team building quick and layman friendly.  Of course, there are those insane players that spend as much time on fantasy games as they clock in the office. You can go crazy and become dizzy from all the opinions and views shared on every sport and player. I play for fun and compete against my skill set and opinion. Sometimes (well maybe more than I wish to admit) I get it wrong, or miss that one glory moment by placing a player on the bench that ends up turning in a career day (e.g. I had Dallas Braden as one of my pitchers last year, and..-cough, uh-hum- forgot to take him off the bench on Mother's Day... he pitched a Perfect Game!); and then there are moments where I beat the paid experts and geeks that spent months building their team of choice! (definitely savor those) My advice is to enjoy fantasy! If you do great, awesome! If you end up at the bottom, absorb the experience and go get em’ next Season!   

As I was reviewing players for 2011 drafts, I began humming “Favorite Things”… You know! That cute song Julie Andrews sings in “Sound of Music” during the storm and the kids all come in her bedroom? And I thought like Dr. Gru (Despicable Me… yes I keep the kid inside alive), “Light Bulb!”… Why not create a quaint cover (in the spirit of Weird Al) to the melody of “Favorite Things” related to none other, Fantasy Fall Season!  Thus for fun (that’s what it’s all about, right?)… Enjoy!

Fantasy Dreams

Lock out is  over  and Free Agents Signing
Kolb goes to Cardinals and Chris Johnson Whining
Plaxico Burress signs with the Jets
Hope this don’t bring… fantasy regrets…

Bush in Miami… Hightower to Redskins
Dan Thomas a Dark Horse… Aaron Rodgers a sure thing  
The Panthers are hoping Cam Newton is key…
To bringing them back to a playoff spree            

When you pick 6th… in the snake draft…
Don’t let that keep you frowned…
Just stick to your power ranks, the sleepers, and lists!
And you will find… Fantasy Bliss!